New York City in October is so gorgeous: leaves turn shades of amber and ruby, markets are stocked up with colorful autumn produce and pumpkins, and houses dress up in festive (and sometimes frightening!) Halloween decorations. It’s so easy to fall for NYC in any season but it’s especially irresistible in the fall!
Obvious Things to Do
Although I have visited NYC briefly on couple of occasions before, this is the first trip I took as an ‘experienced’ traveler (i.e. after returning from Europe) which means I included both, the obvious and less obvious places on my itinerary.
A very obvious place to go see in NYC so go there first. Giant flashing ads, a gridlock of yellow cabs, tourists with cameras, fast food chains, dealers pushing questionable broadway tickets, and retail clothing stores that escaped from a mall. Look around, observe, absorb, and leave. New York is so much more than that and people visiting for the first time sometimes forget to see the city beyond the West 42nd and West 47th Streets. Remember to hold on tightly to your belongings and put away your phone – you’ll need all your attention when navigating crowds and crossing streets. If you’re hungry and want something affordable, quick, and healthy, look for The Little Beet on the W 50th St. where you’ll find plenty of seasonal veggie options.
Sorry, not my thing so I skipped it.
Liberty Island & Ellis Island
Despite being slightly skeptical at first, taking a ferry to Liberty Island and then to Ellis Island was a highlight of the entire trip. Although I didn’t partake in the ‘must-do’ ascent of the Lady Liberty (who knew that the tickets to the crown had to be bought several months in advance?!), I enjoyed the beautiful panorama of Manhattan’s skyscrapers that the Liberty island offers. As for the Ellis Island, I spent at least couple of hours wondering through the hallways of the immigration museum, learning what it was like for 12 million people to enter this country more than a hundred years ago. I found this experience to be one of those rare moments where I realize how important it is to learn history in order to understand the present better.
Central park, at first glance, may seem rather ordinary with expected trees, ponds, benches, playgrounds, and picnic areas, however it’s absolutely extraordinary in its sheer size and prime real estate location. In order to appreciate its uniqueness, it helps to get an aerial view (scroll down to the next topic) where you can see how it fits in the overall scene of Manhattan. Central Park offers a quick escape into nature and serenity in a place filled otherwise with ‘forest’ of buildings.
Top of the Rock
Although a more obvious thing would be to go up the Empire State building, the next runner up in popularity is the Rockefeller Center building which offers equally stunning views of Manhattan with arguably fewer crowds, shorter lines for elevators, and more space due to multi-level viewing deck. Another perk of going to the Top of the Rock is an (almost) unobstructed view of the Central Park and, of course, the Empire State building!
Most people go there to see the bull and the 9/11 Memorial. It’s hard to get inside most buildings to ‘see’ the stock exchange during business hours due to security concerns and it’s predictably deserted on weekends.
And Less Obvious Things
Union Square Market
I love all things food and even more so, farmers markets. I’ve seen plenty of markets in France, Italy, etc. but this is the first market on this side of the pond that can stand up to the challenge of European markets. Open year-around, four days a week, Union Square Market is a vivid proof that it’s possible to maintain connection to local produce even in seemingly unlikely places. If you are lucky, you can even come across a chef from a local restaurant signing autographs for their newly published cookbook like it happened to me.
If weather is pleasant, indulge yourself in a walk across the famous Brooklyn Bridge connecting Manhattan and Brooklyn. Admire the architecture of the bridge and the lineup of the skyscrapers behind you. Also, use this as an opportunity to explore restaurants and cafes in Brooklyn. There is the famous (and thus touristy) Grimaldi’s Pizza under the bridge but there is also Jacques Torres Chocolate (66 Water St) famous for its hot chocolate and fun chocolate creations, and One Girl Cookies (33 Main St), a cute bakery and cafe.
Finally, not to be missed, are the diverse and lively neighborhoods of the Lower Manhattan, such as NoLIta, SoHo, Tribeca, and other amusing abbreviations (you should look up their meaning). The food scene in NYC is fantastic, especially in this area, but be prepared for long waiting times if you show up without a reservation. Needless to say, it can be also very expensive. If you want something on the cheaper side, look no further than Prince Street Pizza (27 Prince St) where you can get authentic NYC pizza by the slice (note that the place is tiny so you may have to take your food to go). There are lots of local and hip bars in this area too due to proximity of NYU. For a more fancy food experience, one option can be Locanda Verde (377 Greenwich St) and you can try to get a seat at the bar since you most definitely going to need a reservation for a table.
One last thing: don’t be afraid of taking a subway! It’s absolutely integral to experiencing the fast-paced, crowded, and diverse city, and despite stereotypes about unfriendly New Yorkers, people can be quite friendly in helping you find your way.